The rivalry between Sir Alex Ferguson and Rafa Benitez is the sub-plot of tomorrow’s fixture as Champions United play host to Rafa’s Chelsea side, the two managers have used their pre-match press conferences to stoke the fire of their rivalry this week with Sir Alex suggesting Benitez was more concerned about his own CV than the fortunes of Chelsea Football Club which in turn led to Rafa responding with a jibe at Ferguson’s lack of European success comparable with the amount of money he has had to spend in his twenty six year tenure at Old Trafford. The rivalry goes back to Rafa Benitez’s days at Liverpool. Can he win at Old Trafford again? A £20 bet with bwin would win you £65 (free £20 for EPL Index readers)!
Chelsea head into tomorrow’s fixture with their tails up following their safe passage through to the Europa League final later this month with Rafa’s men defeated a team Manchester United know all too well in the form of FC Basel on Thursday evening, Chelsea know just how important a week the upcoming seven days are for the club’s fortunes next season with the European Champions visiting Old Trafford on Sunday before hosting rivals Tottenham Hotspur on Wednesday evening in a winner takes all match for the final European Cup qualification spot with Arsenal going a long way to sealing their participation in next year’s tournament following their win at QPR this afternoon. Manchester United on the other hand have very little to play for with the league title already sewn up and merely have an obligation to the rest of the teams chasing a European place to make it as difficult as possible for Chelsea to come away with any points, plus there is also the small matter of the Ferguson v Benitez rivalry where Ferguson will most certainly not want to come off second best again.
This may well also be the final game in the Ferguson-Benitez rivalry for a long while with Benitez expected to be out of a job this summer, however this opens up the possibility of one of European footballs most scrutinised rivalries in recent times, Sir Alex Ferguson and ‘The Special One’, Jose Mourinho with it being heavily reported that the current Real Madrid manager has agreed a deal to resume control of Chelsea this summer.
Ashley Young and Paul Scholes will definitely miss Sunday’s fixture with Chelsea with both players having been ruled out for the season as a result of ankle and knee injuries respectively. Nemanja Vidic and Danny Welbeck are also a doubt for the match against Chelsea with both men suffering injuries that also kept them out of last weekend’s trip to the Emirates.
Chelsea’s mammoth run of matches appears to have caught up with the squad as Rafa Benitez is expected to be forced to make a number of changes to the squad for the trip to Old Trafford, it is expected Ashley Cole, John Terry, Demba Ba, Oscar and Juan Mata will all return to the starting line-up after sitting out Thursday’s Europa League tie with Basel.
- Manchester United haven’t lost in their last four Premier League meetings with Chelsea with three of the last four ending in victories for the Champions.
- Chelsea have kept just one clean sheet at Old Trafford in the Premier League era, this came in December 2001.
- Manchester United are still yet to concede a penalty this season whereas Chelsea have had the highest number of penalties awarded with eleven.
- Javier Hernandez has scored in six of his last eight appearances against Chelsea.
David De Gea
David De Gea has overcome so much criticism over the past twenty-four months and appears to have come out of the other side with the Spaniard earning the recognition of the PFA as Goalkeeper of the year. The former Atletico Madrid man has come on leaps and bounds in terms of his ability to deal with set-pieces which has been noticed by the majority of Manchester United supporters since the turn of the year. The young shot stopper has had absolutely no problems with making important saves as we have seen not only in the Bernabeu against Real Madrid but also against Chelsea at Old Trafford in the FA Cup quarter-final. With the attacking players Chelsea have at their disposal tomorrow it is almost a certainty that they will create chances especially with the power of Ramires in midfield having the potential to yet again cause Michael Carrick problems in the midfield in a very similar manner to what Yaya Toure does when he comes up against United, however De Gea has proven his ability to keep United in games at times this season and may well be required to do the same come tomorrow afternoon. De Gea currently boasts an exceptional record for goals conceded this season with the Spaniard conceding just twenty five Premier League goals this term which is the best in the League just above Hugo Lloris with twenty-six conceded.
Ramires is one of Chelsea’s unassuming stars with the impact he makes on games often going unnoticed by those who do not follow Chelsea’s performances closely but make no mistake Ramires plays a key role in what makes this current Chelsea side tick, particularly in Europe where his brute power on the ball gives European defences used to a lot less physical play a whole deal more to deal with. One of the few weaknesses to Michael Carrick’s overall game is his pace, or lack of it and there are only a few players in the Premier League who can take full advantage of this, one being Manchester City’s Yaya Toure and the other being Ramires, if Ramires gets a run on Michael Carrick tomorrow then the United defence could be put under real pressure, in turn a lot more space will open up for Mata, Hazard and Oscar when the United defence pushes out to address the run of Ramires. The Brazilian can then just coolly slot the ball to one of these three advanced attacking midfield playmakers who can either take a shot themselves or pass it on again with evidence of this coming with Ramires boasting a 76% pass completion rate in the final third. This is how Chelsea can get at Manchester United tomorrow and Benitez just as he did in the FA Cup fixture at Old Trafford, has to get it tactically right.
£20 wins you:
Goalless Draw: £230
Demba Ba to score (anytime): £58
Van Persie to score 1st: £105
Rooney scores 1st & United win 2-0: £820
Torres scores & Chelsea win 1-0: £1020
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